CASALE MONFERRATO, the ancient capital of the area
The ancient Monferrato capital has a walth of monuments to visit. Of particular interest are: the imposing, recently restored Monferrato Castle dating to mid -14 th century, the area's heart and core. TheCathedral with its splendid Narthex and Romanesque crucifix, as well as an extremely modern Centenary Baptistery, ,the work of the scupltor Lodigiani; the church of San Domenico and its adjoining cloister, with valuable works by Guala; the church of SantaCaterina of the Domenican nubs, built by Giacomo Zanetti on a project by Giovanni Battista Scapitta.(1653-1715), was consecrated in 1726; the baroque Synagogue and Jewish museum with its wealth of handcrafted religious articles and a “Light Museum” with a magnificent display of Hannukia lamps, the work of major contemporary artists such as Arman, Mondino, Recalcati, Luzzatti etc..). Furthemore, the former Augustinian Convent of Santa Croce ( 14 th- 19 th Centuries), whose cloister are decorated with frescoes by G. Caccia, currently hosts the Civic Museum which holds a rich heritage of works linked with the town's history. Indeed, on the first floor there are paintings, sculptures and ceramics ( from 12 th to 20 th century) belonging to the civic collections. In the five rooms of the ground floor there is Gipsoteca ( Gallery of plaster casts) of the simbolist sculptor Leonardo Bistolfi (1858-1933). Currently, it also hosts the permanent exhibition on "Carlo Vidua".
A view from the Castle (Ph. credit ATL Alexala)
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES
-> The Monferrato of the Infernot
The area is characterised by the presence of the Infernot, undergroud rooms carved by hand in a typical kind of stone called "Pietra da Cantoni". The were and are still used to store wine bottles. The Monferrato of the Infernot has been part of the Unesco site "The Vineyard landscape of Piemonte: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato" since 2014. The nine municipalities in the core zone are: Camagna Monferrato, Cella Monte (where the Ecomuseum of the Pietra da Cantoni is located), Frassinello Monferrato, Olivola, Ottiglio, Ozzano Monferrato, Rosignano Monferrato, Sala Monferrato e Vignale Monferrato.
For more information: Paesaggi Vitivinicoli del Piemonte (text and video subtitles available in English).
An example of Infernot (Ph. credit Ecomuseo della Pietra da Cantoni)
-> The Sacred Mount of Crea
The Sacred Mount of Crea is located on one of the highest hills in the Monferrato area (altitude 443mt above see level). It enjoys of a breathtaking panorama. The construction works started in 1589 with the enlargement of the pre-existing Marian sanctuary. The mount is a special reserve. The church keeps valuable paintings and frescos. The Sacro Monte is made up of 23 chapels and 5 hermitages, immersed in the park that is of great botanic interest.
For more information: Sacred Mount of Crea.
The main square at the Sacred Mount of Crea
THE MONFERRATO AREA NOT FAR FROM CASALE MONFERRATO
A few kilometres from Casale Monferrato is Terruggia,a Roman settlement wich belonged to various noble Piedmontes families. Carlo Pred's magnificent painting of the Madonna with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Gratus dominates the oratory of San Grato.
On the main road to Asti is San Giorgio Monferrato, wich is dominated by the the spectacular castle from whose terrace can be seen one of the most picturesque panoramas of the area.
Continuing, you reach Ozzano Monferrato wich was one of the domains of the Aleramo family and Paleologo dynasty. The castle resembles a noble villa, and the parish church of San Salvatore has a Renaissance door, while the interior boasts 16 th century capitals.
In Treville, perched on one of the highest peaks in the Casale Monferrato area, the parish church dedicated to Sant'Ambrogio is one of the Monferrato area's archetypes of baroque architecture. A walk through the vineyards up to the old parish church of San Quirico is a must- a finely constructed Romanesque building -destination of pilgrims on the Via Francigena route.
Finally, in Sala Monferrato, a walk up the hill of San Francesco wich dominates the town and offers a splendid view over the Monferrato area. Important works by Caccia and Alberini to be seen the church of San Giacomo.
The village of Ozzano Monferrato
THE VALLE GHENZA AREA
Here we are in the heart of the Monferrato area. Leaving Casale behind, you travel along the picturesque Mandoletta road to Rosignano Monferrato, perched on top of a hill covered in woods and vineyards, with its very ancient history. In the historical centre and numerous nearby hamlets of the "Casale sentinel" (as it was called in the 17 th century), there are still churches, castles, manor houses and a number of belvederes that are well worth a walk.
Opposite Rosignano Monferrato at the top of another hill is Cella Monte, the town of "Pietra da Cantoni" stone and music. Be sure to take a stroll through the streets to discover flower-filled court. Palazzo Volta, with its double Renaissance loggia, houses the Pietra da Cantoni Ecomuseum with its Infernot. Gianni Colonna, pupil of Felice Casorati, lives and works in the district of Coppi.
Continuing along the main road, a turn off to the right leads to Moleto, hamlet of Ottiglio, a very attractive Saracen village. Moreover the village Moleto is distinguished by the presence of several patrician houses in Pietra da Cantoni local stone.
Dont' miss a visit to the nearby village of Olivola, made entirely of "cantone" a visit to the old Romanesque parish church of San Pietro is not to be missed from the churchyard you can enjoy one of the most brathtaking view over the Monferrato hills.
Lastly, Frassinello Monferrato for its two castles, Sacchi Nemours and Lignano, and for the chapel of San Bernardo by Guala.
The Ecomuseum in Cella Monte
THE VIGNALE MONFERRATO AREA
By its very name, this can be considered the vineyard centre. Approaching from Casale Monferrato through Roncaglia, the first interesting towns you encounter, all reached by turning off to the left, are Camagna Monferrato, the ancient possession of the Canons of Tours, with the imposing dome of the St. Eusebio parish church, and Conzano Monferrato, a village now considered to be an art centre, due to the frequent exhibitions at Villa Vidua, where prestigiuos artists have shown their work.
Further on you will get to Vignale Monferrato, a town dedicated to the theam of dancing. Perched on a hill and surrounded by vigneyards, its streets are lined with buildings and monuments that have made Monferrato history.
In Cuccaro Monferro, the curches of Maria Assunta and the Madonna della Neve are of particular interest. The interior road that connects the town to Lu should missed: it provides one of the most beautiful scenic views of the area.
Onwards to Fubine Monferrato, for the parish church of the Assumption, the castle and Neo-Gothic chapel with a magnificent work by Bistolfi. In Quargnento, on the scenic Ronco road towards Villa Cuttica, are the church of San Dalmazio and the house of the artist Carlo Carrà - finish up with an interesting stroll through the streets and places where he grew up.
The village of Camagna Monferrato
THE VALCERRINA AREA
The westernmoast part of the area. Has the steepest hills and wildest woods. Coming from Turin, you enter the area from Murisengo. With its long history, an acient castle and 18 th century churches, the village is famous for the annual Nation Truffle Fair.
In the neighbourhood is Villamiroglio, a village founded in 1164; to be visited is the 16 th century parish church dedicated to San Filippo.
A few kilometrs away is Cerrina, with gothic "Casaforte" and the castle of the Montalero hamlet; the Longobard and Carolingian Mombello Monferrato; in the historical centre, the Casa Tornielli and the churches of San Pietro Apostolo, and San Sebastiano are noteworthy, as is the sanctuary of San Gottardo in Pozzengo. And yet again, Sologhello, on a hillock around the remains of a stately 12 th century.
Nearby is Gabiano: the castle, which dates back to early 13th century, enjoys wonderful views. In Cantavenna hamlet, Rubino, one of the rarest and most exclusive of DOC wines (Controlled Designation of Origin) is produced. A visit to Camino is a must, to see one of the most beautiful ed ancient castles of the area, with a tower dating back to year 1000. At Moncestino, the castle on the Po, the parish church and votive chapel of St. Sebastiano and S. Rocco.
The village of Mombello Monferrato (ph. credit ATL Alexala)
THE AREAS AROUND THE SACRED MOUNT OF CREA AND MONCALVO
Southward, in the villages of Madonnina di Serralunga di Crea, one absolutely must climb to the top of the Sacred Mont of Crea (altitude 443 mt above sea level), the Regional Natural Park in included in Unesco's World Heritage list. It enyoys of a breathtaking panorama and it is the centre of the Monferrato religion. The Sanctuary safeguards paintings anf frescos by artists of great relevance.
Serralunga di Crea - worth mentioning is the home that housed Cesare Pavese and castle in Forneglio hamlet. And again, castles in Ponzano Monferrato and Salabue, where is also the 18 th century Villa Larbel.
Further on towarrs Asti you encounter the Aleramo town of Moncalvo with the ruins of the ancient castle, under the ramparts of wich people still play at "elastic ball" (balun) or tambuerello (tambas).
Not far off, towards the interior on hilly terrain, in panoramic position, spreads Alfiano Natta.
The Sacred Mount of Crea (ph. credit ATL Alexala)
THE PO RIVER PLAIN AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
In the Po River Park area, from Casale Monferrato to Valenza, in a mostly flat area, are found the hamlets with the typical characteristics of the local plain: Borgo San Martino, the hometown of the poet Ravasenga; Pomaro Monferrato's imposing castle; Bozzole's Madonna dell'Argine; Frassineto Po's splendid town hall square, the churches of Sant'Ambrogio and the Madonna degli Angeli; Mirabello Monferrato's Baldesco castle; Occimiano's parish church of San Valerio; Giarole's ancient Sannazzaro castle; Pecetto of Roman origin; San Salvatore Monferrato in top of the hills;
In the Po River Park area, from Casale Monferrato to Turin, is Fontanetto Po, an agricultural centre among the rice-fields where you can visit the mill of San Giovanni, an impressive example of agricultural archeology. Morano Po with the beautiful Pobietta grange, an ancient community of rice-weeders: here can be found an interesting photographic exhibition of the community and some 19th century agricultural machinery. Pontestura, between the plains and the hills, with the museum-warehouse of the artist Colombotto Rosso. Coniolo which enjoys a scenic view over the plain and the rice-field of the area. The church of San Michele is worth a visit for its four large paintings by Pier Francesco Guala. Villanova Monferrato with the church of Sant'Emiliano and the Madonna by Guala, which is kept in the Town Hall.